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Can anyone direct me to a source for a table comparing different basement wall options for basements in the SE?

GBA Editor | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

A client is concerned about Superior Walls long term durability issues.

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  1. Riversong | | #1

    Comparing basement options in what regard? Cost, energy efficiency, durability, water-resistance, ecological footprint?

  2. anonymous | | #2

    Durability, energy efficiency, water resistance, ecological footprint- Cost or time are not as important for now.

  3. Riversong | | #3

    Is "anonymous" the original poster, Alicia Ravetto?

  4. Katy Hollbacher | | #4

    Durability of sub-grade EPS should be fine if appropriately drained, dampproofed, etc. or whatever is appropriate for site. Incorporating termite shields at top of wall would be key in southeast termite country as well.

    One thing I like about ICFs for basements & stem walls is the efficiency of formwork doing double-duty, but I don't like insulating the thermal mass from the interior conditioned air. And I like to avoid EPS and other fire retardant-saturated foams when another option will work; in my opinion a standard formed wall, then insulated on the outside with something like Roxul DrainBoard (, is the greenest assembly.

    There's tons of great info from Building Science Corp on energy & moisture issues regarding basement wall design best practices:

  5. Riversong | | #5


    The question is not about sub-grade EPS or ICFs.

    Superior Walls are high-strength pre-cast concrete wall modules with cast-in-place XPS and galvanized steel studs that are placed on crushed stone beds and bolted together.

  6. Riversong | | #6


    What are your client's specific concerns?

  7. Katy Hollbacher | | #7

    Thanks, Robert; had thought I'd heard of Superior being an ICF product but just now searched and sure enough, it is not. Looks like an interesting way to get a basement up fast!

  8. [email protected] | | #8


  9. user-659915 | | #9

    Hey Alicia, I've not heard of any problems with Superior Wall, the product's been around for quite a while so any durability issues should have surfaced by now. As it's a proprietary product you might check the Better Business Bureau for unresolved complaints.

    I've only used it a couple of times, both times by client request, the earliest at least ten years ago. There's no footing as such, the panels rest on gravel and are locked in place by backfill on one side and the basement slab on the other - the main issue as with any basement condition is proper exterior water management and waterproofing. The main limitation is the usual one with engineered precast panels, i.e. getting your window and door openings absolutely right in the first place because you can't change them on the fly. There are also limitations on how close to corners these openings can be placed. I am not aware of any performance issues once installed.

    I notice that Anchorage is using a somewhat similar system not just for foundation walls but also for all wall panels above grade in Chapel Hill's first stab at a Passivhaus on Kenmore Road.

  10. user-659915 | | #10

    Further thought on environmental footprint - the system appears to use a quite a bit less concrete than a poured-in-place or CMU wall.

  11. Riversong | | #11

    The system uses less concrete, but requires shipping of very heavy units from PA. Concrete is always local.

    Another excellent option for poured-in-place insulated concrete foundations (or above-grade walls) is the ThermoMass system, which I'm using today on a lake cottage with walk-out basement here in VT. It places up to 4" of XPS foam board in the middle of the concrete wall (typically 4" of concrete on either side) so the foam is protected from insects, UV and physical damage and forms a capillary break within the concrete. The two "wythes" of concrete are connected 12" oc with stranded fiberglass ties that have the tensile strength of ½" rebar but are non-conductive thermally. The system offers almost the same dynamic mass benefit of an externally-insulated concrete wall.

  12. Armando Cobo | | #12

    I expect you have a soil’s report with low PI and PVR. If they are too high (PI= 40+ or PVR= 6”+), most of the products mentioned above may not work. You may need to hire an engineer with experience designing basements in bad soils. (Believe me, not all engineers know that)

  13. Alicia | | #13

    My client is concerned about the 10-yr warranty from Superior Walls. I have used this product successfully on projects that have good soil. I still have to get an engineer to test the soil at this site.

  14. adkjac | | #14

    I second Armondo's advice. Bad soils are trouble. The work has to be done right which means engineering.

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